Typical instrumentation by region


The violin was the predominant instrument in the past and is still played alongside the more recently introduced woodwind. The taragot was introduced in the 1920s when it was brought from Hungary by a Banat lăutar. The taragot is used for the slow doina as well as the fast dance melodies, but now alto and soprano saxophones are often played alongside the taragot. It is common to see a slightly strange combination of many violins playing together with taragots and saxophones in the city ensembles.

One of the best known violinists of the region is Efta Botoca, and Luca Novac is the best known taragotist.


This rural area on the Ukraine border maintained some of the oldest instrumentation such as the now rare țilincă and the cobza. The regional version of the fluier is an end blown pipe known locally as the fluieraș (small pipe) or the fluier mare (large pipe). These were played with a cobza accompaniment. Violins, and more recently brass, were added to the melody line and the accordion took over the accompaniment from the cobza.


The violin dominates the music in this region. In some areas a second violin is used to provide the accompaniment to the lead violin. This predates the accompaniment use of the braci (contra) found in Transylvania. The best recordings using a second violin can be found of the Romanian villages of Elek and Mecherechi in Hungary.

In the mid-20th century a version of the Stroh violin known as the “Tiebel-Radio system violin” spread into Romania where it is known as the vioara cu goarna (violin with horn). Although once found in several areas these are now mainly restricted to Bihor.

The taragot has become popular in Arad with the musicianship of Petrica Pașca


The Romanian instrumentation in Dobrogea is the same as that found in Muntenia. However, Dobrogea also has Tartar, Turkish and Bulgarian populations all with their own music and instruments.

Maramureș & Oaș


The typical ensemble is violin, zongora, and sometimes drum. In 1913, when Bela Bartok was researching music, the zongora had only two strings strummed continuously independent of the melody, much like the drone strings of a zither. The number of strings have since increased to three with some changes to the tuning used to follow the melody. Nowadays the number of strings has increased further and the harmonic structure is fitted to the melody. More recently the taragot has been made popular by Dimitru Farcas and saxophone and accordion are now common. The învârtita and barbătesc dance melodies of Maramureș are made up of short elements put together by the musician allowing improvisation and varying the length of the phrases.


Music is commonly played on an adapted violin to make it sound shriller and sometimes it is accompanied by the zongora. The musician uses archaic melodic elements to build the melody, but to the uninitiated the whole effect does not sound very musical! The singing in Oaș is again very shrill and quite unique.


Violin and țambal are now the basis of Moldavian dance music. Until the spread of the țambal in the early 20th century the cobza was the accompaniment instrument, but now can only be found in the more remote areas such as Bucovina (see the separate section), Vrancea and with the Hungarian minorities known as the Csángó.

Ion Dragoi is one of the best know violinists of Moldavia.


The capital cities have always been situated in Muntenia and the better communications are reflected in the progression of music in this region. The older fluier is still very common in the sub-Carpathians, but generally the newer instruments have been quickly integrated. The progression from the cobza though to the țambal mare and to the accordion happened earliest in this region. The fluier and violin were traditionally the main melody instruments, but now the melody line is commonly led by the clarinet or accordion. Musicians such as Ilie Udila and Vasile Pandelescu have perfected a very fast accordion style in keeping with the musical tradition. To audiences in west Europe, the best known taraf is from Clejani (to the west of Bucarești) marketed as the “Taraf de Haidouks”.


Oltenian instrumentation has not modernised as quickly as in neighbouring Muntenia, but otherwise they share similar music and dance. Pipes and violins are still the dominant melody instrument with musicians such as the pipe player Dumitru Zamfira. In the past the local taraf would have rhythmical backing from cobza, but this has been replaced by the guitar and the țambal.


In central Transylvania the typical Rom taraf of violin, braci (contra) and bass dates from the last century. The braci can be bowed to play triads giving a fuller sound compared to the earlier technique using a second violin. The bass is played with a short rustic bow allowing the musician to “dig” into the notes to emphasise the dance beat. These tarafuri play for both the Hungarian and Romanian communities over a wide area giving rise to the exchange and spreading of melodies.

Mostly the harmonic arrangement from the braci and bass is rudimentary. However, in the Hungarian Kalotaszeg region, on the road between Cluj and Hungary, a much higher level of musical arrangement has developed during the 20th century.

In some less prosperous or remote areas the music was still provided by Romanian musicians playing fluier. Across the south of Transylvania the most popular sound is now a saxophone backed by accordion.

Published on 8th August 2018